A flexitarian diet for dogs is defined as mixing regular meat based meals with some plant based meals too.
We are all living through an ecological crisis and we are all aware of the need to reduce our carbon foot print to create a sustainable future. In one UCLA study, researchers estimate that dog and cat food is responsible for around 64 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions from driving 13.6 million cars! The pet food industry also accounts for around a quarter of the land, water and pesticide use of the wider meat industry.
The earliest dog foods were human leftovers. The earliest commercial dog foods were made from ingredients deemed unfit for human consumption. That’s changed. Now, dog foods are increasingly competing with human foods as consumers of “human-grade” ingredients. This makes our pets’ environmental pawprints much larger than in the past ! In fact, in the book Time to Eat the Dog, Robert and Brenda Vale write that a medium-size dog could have a footprint as large as an SUV!
A recent survey suggests that around 42% of all consumers worldwide are now part-time vegans who actively minimise their meat and dairy intake. They do this for various reasons, either ethical, environmental or health. Pet owners too are now looking for sustainable AND healthy ways to feed their companions. We want the best for our pups! This means ingredients that do no harm to animals and the planet, whilst tasting delicious and providing a balanced nutritional diet.
So can turning your dog into a flexitarian make a difference and is it healthy?
One question many dog owners ask is “Don’t dogs need meat in their diets?”
We’ve seen the evidence of improved health and well-being in humans as more of us have switched to flexitarian diets. Now research is showing the huge health benefits of introducing more plant-based foods to our pets too
.In April 2022, The Guardian reported the results of the most recent Peer-reviewed analysis of 2,500 pets. The diet and health of more than 2,500 dogs were followed over a year using surveys completed by their owners The study finds vegan dogs visit the vet less often and require fewer medications and suggests that Vegan diets are healthier and safer for dogs. Whether we accept these findings fully or not it is clear that a correctly formulated plant based diet can provide health benefits for your dog and for the environment too.
Scientific evidence also confirms that plant-based foods can provide all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that dogs need to stay healthy. They also offer a clean, transparent and sustainable alternative to meat-based diets. Introducing at least some plant based meals could be a great first step in helping your dog to achieve longer life and better health and at the at the same time helping towards the creation of a sustainable future.
Carnivore or Omnivore?
Theoretically, you can feed a dog a fully vegetarian diet, but it’s not something you do lightly and you definitely need to do it with the help of a nutritionist.
But is a dog not decended from wolves and a carnivore or meat eater?
Gray wolves, Canis lupus, are definitely carnivores and are capable of consuming up to 10 Kg of meat in one meal.
When you look at a Pomeranian or a Poodle, it may be hard to imagine, but these breeds and infact all dogs, are descendants of the gray wolf. They are however not the same as wolves .As dogs have been domesticated , their digestion systems and metabolism have evolved to the point that many scientists now classify dogs as ominores. They have been human companions for centuries and have lived off the scraps from human tables – be that meat or veg. Unlike cats, which are obligate carnivores (cats need nutrients found in meat to survive), dogs can draw the nutrients they need from animal or plant sources.
So can my dog thrive on a flexitarian diet?
Dogs can thrive when not eating meat for every meal but only if they are fed a properly balanced diet at all times. This means feeding a nutritionally sound complete food whether meat or plant based, at each meal.
The Merck Veterinary Manual says, “In developed countries, nutritional diseases are rarely seen in dogs and cats, especially when they are fed good quality, commercial, complete and balanced diets. Nutritional problems occur most commonly when dogs and cats are fed imbalanced homemade diets. Dog or cat foods or homemade diets derived from a single food item are inadequate. For example, feeding predominantly meat, or even an exclusive hamburger and rice diet, to dogs can induce calcium deficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism.”
The choice is yours – and your dogs
If you are concerned about the environment and creating a sustainable future then a flexitarian diet for your dog is certainly a positive option. In addition, it seems that plant based foods do provide health benefits for dogs as for humans too. It’s not just sustainability. If you are concerned about the welfare of farm animals raised for the pet food industry a flexitarian diet takes some steps towards alleviating this concern too.
But decreasing the use of farm animals in your dog’s diet is not as easy as giving your dog a bowl of carrots and beans. While dogs are omnivores, they are also card-carrying meat lovers; homemade or poorly researched attempts at creating meals, too often result in poor acceptance or, at worst, malnutrition.
We already love the Natura Diet range of slow cooked, meat based complete foods made with 100% human grade ingredients. We have also recently added to our range the nurtitionally balanced complete plant based wet food from HOWND in two delicious flavours. Our dogs love it!
Why not start your flexitarian adventure by replacing a few of your dogs meals with this drool worthy vegan treat or simply add it as a mixer to one of the Natura Diet complete kibble menus.
The main take away from this discussion should be that, whether you choose to feed a RAW or a meat or plant based complete commercial food or a flexitarian combination of all three, it is vitally important to know what ingredients are in each food that you are feeding and to be sure that it is a nutritionally well balanced diet adapted for your dog at his stage of life and level of health and fitness.
How can The Woof Club Help You?
We hope that this brief introduction to flexitarian feeding and it’s potential benefits has sparked your interest in this topic.
At the Woof Club we have our own canine nutritionist and we offer free consultations so if you have any questions about your existing diet or just want some advise as to how to get started with a flexitarian diet, just get in touch by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or filling in our contact form.
We recommend only a very few brands of high quality dog foods as follows;
- Natura Diet & Gosbi – a full range of slow cooked and meat based complete foods made with human grade ingredients
- HOWND – Plant based nutritionally complete vegan food
We are happy to help with any questions that you may have and we would love to hear what you think about flexitarian diets for dogs.